Notes On A Scandal by Zoë Heller

Undoubtedly many of you will remember this novel. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2003 and then made into a film starring Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench in 2006. I felt certain I hadn’t read it before but somehow, as I turned the pages, it was as if the story were coming from a familiar place even though I hadn’t seen the film.

Though the scandal is salacious and as sordid and mundane as one might expect – an affair between a female teacher and a fifteen-year-old; people behaving thoughtlessly, living through the mists of their own egos and creating drama and intimacy out of desperation – the real pleasure is in Barbara’s first person, witness account. Continue reading

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

His Bloody Project was recommended by the New York Times as one of the best books of 2016 and as someone for whom a murderous thriller is appealing, I was interested to get to grips with the novel.

Given the premise that this is an account written by the actual Roderick Macrae in 1869 with additional documents that include statements from witnesses and accounts of his trial, working your way into the novel isn’t straightforward and won’t be for everyone. This is a very consciously constructed tale built to give the characters authenticity even if it does not offer certainty.

The story behind the various documents is fascinating. Roderick Macrae was a seventeen-year-old crofter living in a small village in Scotland, who killed Lachlan Mackenzie, his neighbour and the local constable of the parish, Lachlan’s teenage daughter and his youngest son. Roderick claims to have intended to go to Lachlan Mackenzie’s house to kill him for persecuting his father and that the other murders were incidental, necessary only so that neither child could raise the alarm. Continue reading

The North Water by Ian McGuire

Patrick Sumner is a surgeon who takes a job on a whaling ship. He is down on his luck. Discharged from the army with a limp and a story hiding in a locked chest, Sumner is also an orphan who was adopted and trained by the local doctor turned alcoholic. To top it all, Sumner is now addicted to Laudanum.

Heading for the same ship is Henry Drax, a man ruled by thirst and hunger, sometimes for drink, or for sex, or for blood. The North Water puts the two men in the same ship, holes them up on the same bleak stretches of ice, and lets us meditate on what it is to be human: do you follow your own desires, or do you question them? Continue reading

The Power by Naomi Alderman

 

After a month focussing on my novel, I’m back to blogging. While I was gone I also discovered I was a book vlogger, something I hope to do more of in the new year. If you haven’t seen any of my videos, head over to Authors QH or follow my you tube channel. Here’s my review of The Power:

I’ve not read any Naomi Alderman before and I found this book thoughtful and wry.

It begins with a series of letters from Neil to his fellow writer friend, Naomi.

Neil is writing a novel reimagining the history of the world before what is referred to as ‘the cataclysm’, a war that wiped the world clean of civilisation requiring human beings to start again. All knowledge of the world before the cataclysm has been interpreted through the eyes of the current dominant hegemony, a maturing matriarchy led by women who are more powerful than men because they can generate electricity, like electric eels. The women of this society behave in much the same way as men have done throughout our own history. Continue reading